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3 Twitter Genres to Try With Students

Screen Shot 2012-12-05 at 8.50.52 AMI’m always fascinated by new writing genres, and Twitter has been offering them up left and right lately. From 280-character tweets to the proliferation of threads, group chats to hashtags, and thoughtful questions posed through photo tagging, I’ve been delighted by the new things happening on Twitter.

I started thinking about Twitter-as-genre when 280-character tweets first began to appear. This delightful literary allusion caught my eye, and I would love to share it with students in the context of a discussion about the power of poetry and brevity:

What a wonderful quickwrite it would make to take some of the most-liked tweets Twitter has to offer and redesign them to be twice as long. I would also do this same exercise with powerful quotes or poems, excerpts from students’ choice reading books, or lines from pieces of writing we were trying to workshop, with an eye for editing length, diction, and tone.

A week or so after I noticed that delightful bastardization of William Carlos Williams’ work, my poor phone couldn’t hold a charge because of all the notifications my Twitter app was sending. Leigh Anne Eck tagged several workshop teachers in a question about our favorite metaphors for the writer’s notebook, and then Tricia Ebarvia wondered about mentor texts for place. What resulted were rich Q&A threads that kept me thinking about notebooks and beautiful writing for days.

Getting students to pose questions via Twitter, using a hashtag or a photo tag to ask specific audiences, could have delightful results. Lisa’s #fhslanglife has resulted in a beautiful collection of book recommendations, motivational sound bites, and literacy-related links, and the replies to the threads linked above are chock-full of some great resources and ideas. I’d love to have students pose questions related to their argumentative and research writing by tagging classmates, stakeholders, or experts in their queries.

Lately, when I scroll through my own Twitter profile, I notice a trend that shows that I’m part of certain writerly communities. Most recently, #WhyIWrite, #NaNoWriMo2017, and the ever so useful #5amWritersClub have been where I’ve spent lots of my virtual Twitter time. Not only do these groups motivate me–I’m more likely to get more work done once I’ve checked in with my early-bird writer pals–they are a study in a particular kind of writing craft.

#5amwritersclub tweets, for example, are supremely gif-heavy, while #NaNoWriMo tweets have historically been slightly frantic and often unintelligible. The #WhyIWrite hashtag spurred a wide variety of forms, from direct answers to sketches in notebooks to lengthier answers like mine. I’d love to invite students to join a regularly-tweeting writing community, but I’d also study the craft of that community’s tweets with them to see what moves make for an engaging contribution to the conversation.

Twitter is a versatile, valuable collection of writing genres–for teachers and students. I hope, if you’re not already there, that you’ll be joining us in Twitter land soon. At the very least, please join us next Monday, when we’ll be chatting with the amazing Tom Newkirk about narrative, NCTE, and his latest book, Embarrassment.

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We hope you’ll give these three Twitter teaching ideas a try and share how they go! Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments.

Shana Karnes is getting impatient to become a mom of two girls–in three short weeks! She loves her work with practicing and preservice teachers at West Virginia University, through the College of Education and NWP@WVU. Find Shana on Twitter or at the WVCTE Best Practices Blog.

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